Mothers and Mothering

Consider the ways in which your career, all of your paid and unpaid roles, may have been influenced by your mother or another important mother figure in your life.

What wisdom and experience did you glean from those relationships? What wisdom will you pass on to the important women in your life?

Mothers and Mothering

I do not believe a special day to commemorate mothers is necessary, preferring that this be a daily effort. Nevertheless, Mother's Day presents an opportune time to honour the act of mothering through writing.

Each one of us has unconscious powerful forces within that influence what we do and how we feel. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung proposed these as generated by the content of the collective unconscious; inherited, patterned mental images which he termed archetypes. One of the most powerful and pervasive female archetypes is "The Mother," but it is not the only inner pattern meaningful to women. What one type of woman
finds rewarding may be meaningless to the next. Some seek fulfillment through marriage and children and grieve should that goal not be attained; others value different pursuits. Some move from one meaningful relationship to another in search of intense emotional experiences; while yet others attempt to strike a balance comprised of
parts of these and other inner patterns. For the most part, however, cultural stereotypes - the roles to which society expects women to perform - reinforce the "mother" archetypal pattern.

We are often unaware of how powerful these cultural stereotypes are and how much they direct our lives until we face a crisis. I meet many women, personally and professionally, who struggle to understand "the problem that has no name," a phrase Betty Friedan coined in her 1963 work, The Feminine Mystique. Friedan identified the emptiness and dissatisfaction experienced by her own and generations of women who lived for and through others. Despite dramatic societal transformation, the restriction and devaluation of women's roles still too often results in unhappiness and a crisis of identity.

While women's roles have expanded since Friedan's era, the conundrum associated with the Mother role remains. Mothers' societal contributions are grossly undervalued and complicated to measure, yet she is held accountable for the outcome of her work; the raising of children to become functioning, contributing members of society.
The consequential inner pressure to perform begins with the quality of the mother-child attachment believed necessary for the baby to thrive, regardless of the fact that the archetypal mother-child pattern can be fulfilled by someone other than the biological mother. The reality for some women is that they undertake the role not fully realizing the enormous demand nor the complexity of raising a child. The possible outcome may include feelings of fear, failure, loneliness and guilt from the perceived lack of "natural" reflexes that comprise "good" mothering with little respite and few safe places to share the feelings of inadequacy.

Never-the-less with no instructional manual and little or not training, ordinary women continue to perform the extraordinary task of mothering every day. The majority work hard, make sacrifices and carry on doing the very best they can. Most importantly, they remain committed to unconditionally protecting, loving and supporting their

This article is written with gratitude for mother's work everywhere and every day.


*Some of the ideas expressed here originate from Jean Shinoda Bolen's book Goddesses
in Every Women: A New Psychology of Women

Take good care of yourself,

Kathleen Johnston, MA


Your Career
Mothers and Mothering



A Passion for the Possible by Jean Houston. The Author provides the essential tools
to unlock our unique possibilities by claiming the distinct gifts we possess.


Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives:A Woman's Career Legacy AND
A Woman's Career Diary uses the career journeys of eight Alberta women in a workbook style to invite you to reflect on and record your own unique career legacy.

A Woman's Career Diary has been designed to let you record the day to day events of your career, with "career" including all of your paid and unpaid work . This Diary is designed to assist you in experiencing
personal insight about your career, resulting in a collection of your most cherished memories.

Both books are an enduring gift for yourself or someone you love.
Watch for them August, 2010


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